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Monday, November 15, 2010

Warmongering, self-serving bores squandering American resources around globe betray "isolationist" legacy of Founders

Getting Beyond ‘Left’ and ‘Right,’ Part Two

Another tradition
( -- by Justin Raimondo --

...This election season we’ve heard an awful lot from the tea partiers about the Constitution, and specifically about the Founding Fathers, who are held up as exemplars to be emulated. Now, that’s a good idea as far as I’m concerned, because if we hark back to the legacy of the Founders, and take it seriously, and apply it to the 21st century, there would be no PATRIOT Act, no spying on Americans by their own government, – and certainly no TSA agents poking and prodding American citizens every time they want to get on a plane! And there would be no American Empire, either.

You know, I have often found myself in the position of being called an “isolationist.” Now, of course, there is no such thing as an isolationist: humans naturally gather together in communities, and the only isolationists are those holy hermits of times past, who went out into the desert to commune with God. Yes, but they always came back, didn’t they – not least because they wanted to communicate their sacred visions to the people.

The international division of labor, the social and cultural benefits of free trade and easy emigration, the global flow of information made possible by the internet – these are all to the good. However, there are some things that we want to be isolated from: war, tyranny, social and economic turmoil – isolation from these negative phenomena is much to be desired.

The isolationist label was first used by the enemies of peace as an epithet that made war opponents out to be unrealistic cranks, and since it was repeated endlessly by the pro-war media, the word became common parlance. But what is today reviled as “isolationism” – which is simply a policy of non-intervention in the affairs of other nations – is deeply rooted in American history.

As the anti-isolationist historian Selig Adler pointed out: “The American Revolution was in itself an act of isolation, for it cut the umbilical cord to the mother country.” Were the American revolutionists “isolationists” because they wanted to isolate themselves from the tyranny of the British king? And not only from him, but from all the crowned heads of Europe, who looked on the North America wilderness as fertile field for the growth of their empires. Not only England, but the Dutch, the Spaniards, and the French, whose revolutionary fervor devoured the revolutionaries, and finally turned its fury outward, as Napoleon rampaged across Europe and sought to export his revolution to the New World.

To no avail. The American Revolution, as the conservative writer Garet Garrett put it in 1956,

“was a pilot flame that leaped the Atlantic, and lighted holocaust in the Old World. But its character was misunderstood and could not have been reproduced by any other people. It was a revolution exemplary.”

This “revolution exemplary” gave birth to a New World bereft of the encrusted evils, the ancient hatreds, the convoluted obsessions of the old. This sense of the unique American character permeated the revolutionary propaganda of the rebellious patriots: freedom from European militarism was one of the great benefits of independence touted in Thomas Paine’s Common Sense. In 1783, at the end of the Revolutionary War, Congress passed a resolution rejecting American entry into the European “League of Armed Neutrality,” declaring that the thirteen states “should be as little as possible engaged in the politics and controversies of the European nations.”

The classic statement of the Founders’ foreign policy is, of course, George Washington’s Farewell Address. Caught in the crossfire of radical Jeffersonians and the pro-British Federalists led by Alexander Hamilton, Washington sought to steer a middle course, warning against “permanent inveterate antipathies against particular nations and passionate attachment for others.” But he went further than this:

“The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is, in extending our commercial relations to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop.”

And we did stop. After the Treaty of Alliance with France that aided and speeded the victory of the American revolutionaries, the American government did not enter into another formal alliance with a foreign power until World War II – a course that ensured our independence, preserved our republican institutions, and avoided the growth of foreign influence in our internal politics. This was the policy of non-intervention, which all the Founders basically endorsed, most notably Thomas Jefferson who called for “entangling alliances with none” in his first inaugural address. This was in part because we were surrounded on all sides by the European powers, who were battling it out for world supremacy, with France on one side and the British on the other. So President Jefferson was determined to stay out of it, and not only because of the external danger the world conflict posed to us, but also because war would destroy the young American republic from within...MORE...LINK

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